Conrad's view of revolution/anarchism in under western eyes


  • Antonio Eduardo de Oliveira



It is my main purpose to discuss in this paper three relevant topics concerned with Joseph Conrad's novel Under Western Eyes, namely: the author's view of revolution and anarchism and its relation with his Polish experience; how critical Conrad is of both autocracy and revolution and finally to discuss where in, the novel the writer is sympathetic to revolution. To begin with, let me mention some aspects of Conrad's Polish background. First of all, he was a Pole, born in the Russian-occupied Poland of 1857 as the son of one of the most spirited participants in the Polish National Comittee, and with a profound fear of Russian autocratic power in his blood. Politics, nationalism, the forces of imperialism and rebellion, were the first and deepest parts of his inheritance. Conrad's character was linked to the patriotic and nationalistic ardour of his father's nature, an idealist revolutionary, and to the conservatism of his uncle Tadeuz Bobrowski his guardian during youth. The duality of thought conditioned by Apollo Korzeniowski, the father, and Tadeuz Bobrowski made his character divided all his life long. The political approach in Under Western Eyes exemplifies the writer's duality of thought. In order to write this novel Conrad found uggestions in the writings of Russian novelists, mainly Dostoievsky's Crime and Punishment. Although the book fully justifies this assertion, the writer denies it and even affirmed in a letter to a friend that he had a "Russophobia", and that he did not like the works of the famous Russian writer.